A Harley bridges all divides…
Like many riders, I fell in love with motorcycles at a young age. 40 years later, I love to ride as much as I ever did, and for all the same reasons… freedom, adventure, the thrill of raw acceleration, and sights that you just don’t see the same way when travelling in any other way.
There is one additional reason to ride that I see clearly today, and was unable to see in my youth — a Harley bridges all divides. The divide between middle age and youth, men and women, boredom and excitement, an ordinary ride and a real ride, professor and mechanic, right and left, and even the many cultural differences that unnecessarily divide our world. Go ahead, create your own list… this is what Harley riders do!
I run my own company and 18 months ago, I decided to head to an amazing part of the Middle East called, Oman. The people here are friendly, well-educated and hardworking, and pretty much just like you and me, no matter what the news media would have us believe. People here love Harleys… they give the thumbs up and have the same look of envy you see in every non-Harley rider’s eye… “That is so cool. I wish I was riding too.”
— Cam Graham is an independent management consultant and executive coach that loves his new 2012 Harley Road King Classic
My Father, the Harley Rider
My father, Ben Kennedy, joined the Canadian Army Reserve in 1927, a full 12 years before the start of World War II. He joined a unit of the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals at the James Street Armouries in Hamilton where he learned th trade of army signaling using various techniques such as heliograph, semaphore, Morse code and the riding of motorcycles. He enjoyed transporting signals dispatches, called dispatch riding, on his issued Harley a lot more than sitting in an office transmitting signals. He called it the freedom of the road, even back then.
When war was declared by Canada against Germany on September 11th 1939, Dad was already an experienced Sergeant and was eagerly accepted into the Active Service Force Army, which at that time was desperately short of trained soldiers.
So Dad went to war and was not released from the Army until October 1945, six long years later, because his service and training was deemed essential even though the war with Germany ended in early May 1945. He was one of the first Canadian soldiers shipped to England and had a ringside seat during the German bombing of Britain, called the Blitz. When the Canadian signalers went to England, they were equipped with Harley-Davidson motorcycles, the Model WLC, a 45 cubic inch (750 CC) side valve V Twin. Several of the pictures show Dad sitting or working on his issued Harley, his service revolver never far from his reach.
Dispatch riders had to operate in all types of terrain and weather with two of the pictures showing snowy winter riding which my father told me got very chilly, this being years before electrically heated gloves and jackets became available after the war. The unusually shaped headlight was called a black out headlamp and during darkness it emitted only a small sliver of light and in the total blackout conditions in England at the time, there were no lights of any kind, so riding a motorcycle was dangerous to start with. Add to that, the generally rainy weather, cobblestone streets, narrow country lanes and farm animals crossing the roads at will, this then really made dispatch riding extremely dangerous.
All street and highway signs were removed to protect against the anticipated German Parachute invaders and all dispatch riders were ordered to speed as fast as they could to deliver the secret documents from one Headquarter to the next. Given these conditions the casualty rate among dispatch riders was horrendous, with many being killed or injured in accidents.
Finally, the inevitable happened to my Dad. He crashed in the darkness on a hairpin curve in the rain and his right leg was broken in three places. He ended up in a Canadian Military Hospital in England enduring several operations for three and a half months and then another three months in a cast until his leg healed. His doctor, shown in one of the photos, told him that his motorcycling days were over because his leg would never survive another crash and also because his broken right leg, which was used for kick starting the engine, was now not fit enough for the sometimes damaging kickback from a backfiring engine.
Dad was now ordered to travel in a four wheel drive Jeep, shown in one of the pictures, a fact which probably saved his life but he always thought of it as a come down because he loved his Harley and missed the camaraderie of his fellow Harley dispatch riders. So it seems that even back then, Harley riders were a pretty tight group who enjoyed each others company and the shared excitement of motorcycle riding.
I guess that I have inherited my father’s love of motorcycling because I have been riding for many years and I now look forward to riding my new 2012 Road King Classic next month.
My father is long gone now but I will be thinking of him and others like him fighting for our precious freedom over 70 years ago, as I ride my Harley enjoying that hard won, timeless freedom today.
Major Don Kennedy (Ret’d)